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Boys desert Scouts to join Trail Life

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 8:03 p.m.
In this Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 photo, Trail Life members Malachi Glaspell, 5, right, prays with Layton Young, 6, center, Jack Eversole and other members during a meeting in North Richland Hills, Texas. The Trail Life USA oath calls on the boys in part 'to serve God and my country, to respect authority, and to be a good steward of creation.' (AP Photo/LM Otero)

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas — Chatting in the living room one night, Ron Orr gave his 15-year-old son Andrew a choice: He could stick with the Boy Scouts of America and his mission to become an Eagle Scout, or he could join Trail Life USA — the new Christian-based alternative that excludes openly gay boys.

This was no small decision. Four generations of Orr men had been Eagles, including Ron and Andrew's older brother. Andrew had spent years working toward Scouting's highest rank and was months from reaching it.

But the Boy Scouts had decided to admit gays, and Ron Orr, a tall, soft-spoken man with a firm handshake, is clear about his Christian faith and what it says about homosexuality: It is a sin that cannot be tolerated.

His son agreed. He would forgo the century-old BSA for Trail Life, which officially began last month.

“It felt like I'd be hitting something higher than Eagle in terms of achievement,” Andrew said.

The Orrs and others in Trail Life say they are fighting for the traditional values of Christianity and of Scouting, which includes a command in the Scout Oath to be “morally straight” — even as a changing America grows more accepting of gays and gay marriage.

“As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin,” Ron Orr said in an interview.

Trail Life has established units in more than 40 states, mostly from Boy Scouts and parents who feel their old organization has lost its way. It has about 600 units up and running or in the process of registration, executive director Rob Green said. As many as half of those who have expressed interest were not affiliated with the Boy Scouts beforehand, Green said.

It is still a tiny movement compared to Scouting, which has nearly 2.5 million youth members and remains a powerful force in American life, even with a 6 percent drop in membership last year.

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